Attitudes around cloud computing have grown beyond just “another way to cut costs”. Today, more than 1 in 2 Australian IT leaders are adopting cloud to ignite innovation in their businesses, largely due to the ease and scalability of resource provision which it offers. That’s causing demand for public cloud services, namely software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings, to grow by nearly 25% this year alone.
Most businesses, when they see their competition moving to the cloud, are feeling increasing pressure to also tap into its benefits as quickly as possible. Yet cloud adoption doesn’t always render businesses more innovative, or even efficient. In fact, the public cloud often throws up unexpected, unprecedented roadblocks to achieving greater agility.
Bringing businesses back to earth
These roadblocks typically emerge during the process of migrating on-premise workloads to public cloud infrastructure. The process typically looks simple from the outside, but often ends up being anything but. During migrations, IT leaders typically square off against myriad differences in file formats, inconsistent data types, and the omnipresent – but often overlooked – costs of data ingress and egress to the cloud. And as a result, the costs of migrating can quickly inflate even (should this be “especially” rather than “even”) as complexity rises.
Those issues are being quickly compounded by businesses’ growing appetite for mixed models of cloud consumption, like hybrid cloud and multi-cloud portfolios. The more discrete infrastructure environments your business runs, the more complicated it becomes to integrate those environments’ storage with one another – let alone build, test, and roll out new products or services on them at speed. Even scalability, one of the cloud’s original “claims to fame”, suffers when storage and application resources come from too many different cloud platforms or involve numerous SaaS offerings.
Does this mean IT should stop looking to the public cloud to improve innovation? Not in the slightest. At its best, the public cloud still offers businesses the strongest platform to create and deploy new products and services at scale, fast enough to stay ahead of the competition. But IT leaders will need to first simplify operations on the ground if they want the cloud to elevate their innovation potential.
Taking the rage out of storage
Most of the issues complicating public cloud adoption relate to storage in some way. That’s probably because while its administration involves a high degree of technical proficiency, storage itself doesn’t really contribute much to business value: time and effort are much better spent on innovation and customer service than fixing data protocols. Simplify storage and the business ends up with more of that time and effort to devote to things which really matter.
The easiest way to do so is to apply the “as a service” model to storage. Just like SaaS has managed to tremendously simplify the way in which businesses provision and manage applications, storage-as-a-service similarly outsources the nuts and bolts of data management to third parties whose job it is to provide seamless performance and capacity. Storage-as-a-service, when done right, will speed up not only an organisation’s move from on-premise to public cloud infrastructure. It’ll also ensure that even as the organisation’s cloud footprint becomes more complex – involving more than one cloud environment, for example, or expanding across a broader portfolio of SaaS applications – it’ll have enough capacity and compatibility to keep up with demand, even amidst that complexity.
The power of partnership
If that’s the case, why haven’t more businesses gone down the storage-as-a-service route? One reason could be that storage-as-a-service has only reached maturity in recent years, with public cloud platforms opening their infrastructure to managed service providers as they, too, recognise that the cloud’s complexity is growing beyond what most businesses can bear. NetApp’s own Cloud Volumes service, for example, works in close partnership with AWS as well as the Google Cloud Platform, with our data services being directly tailored and designed to fit the inner workings of each cloud. That makes it possible for such services to offer native integration into those public cloud platforms, simplifying consumption while also maximising performance from the resources at hand.
Businesses are right to view the public cloud as an enabler of faster, easier innovation. But maximising the public cloud’s potential – and overcoming the complexity that increasingly threatens to slow down the development process – requires IT leaders to take the “as a service” model a step further, applying it to storage as well as software and applications. They’ll want to outsource the technical groundwork to partners who understand not just the technology of public cloud storage, but also how to harness it for faster, more flexible deployments. Doing so will get their workloads into the cloud months, or even years sooner than a DIY approach – and give them much more time to come up with their next wave of innovation.